- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Sarge got this follow-up letter to the case of Stephen Brady.

As readers know, the Department of Veterans Affairs declined to pay Mr. Brady’s $100,000 emergency-room bill because his state-mandated auto insurance came with a small $10,000 medical benefit. VA ruled that this auto insurance meant Mr. Brady had medical insurance and was ineligible to have the VA cover non-service-related stays in non-VA hospitals.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

The American Legion has been aware of a number of cases similar to Mr. Brady’s in which VA, because of the limitations set forth in 38 U.S.C. 1725, as a result of the Millennium Health Care Act, has been prohibited from reimbursing private hospitals for emergency medical treatment of some veterans.

Legislation supported by the American Legion and enacted recently provides a partial remedy. PL 110-387, signed into law Oct. 10, authorizes payment to private facilities by VA for emergency treatment of certain service-connected conditions, non-service-connected disabilities associated with and held to be aggravating a service-connected disability, any disability of a veteran if the veteran has a total disability permanent in nature from a service-connected disability and in some other instances.

We’re going to take a close look at the situation as it exists with this amendment and see what, if any, additional legislative remedy may be needed.

As for Mr. Brady’s appeal, it may be helpful for him to contact his accredited representative, if he has appointed one, to check the status of his claim. That at least should give him a general idea of when the case may be decided.

Sgt. Shaft, thanks for your continued efforts to provide assistance to veterans and their families.

John F. Sommer

Executive director

Washington Office

The American Legion

Dear John:

Thanks for the American Legion’s strong support for our nation’s veterans and their families. As we all know, sometimes in this town, a period or a comma, a word or a sentence can distort well-intentioned legislation.

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

My father is a retired U.S. Army colonel. His wife of 25 years recently passed away unexpectedly. She was 68, and he is 81.

Now my father is alone in Colorado without family close by. He is in good mental and physical health and is determined to take care of himself. (Did I mention he is extremely independent and hardheaded?) As you can imagine, I am deeply worried about him.

• Does the military provide any type of service that can check on him periodically? Clean or cook for him on occasion?

• Is there military housing for retired veterans?

• My father paid $7,000 for his wife’s funeral. Are there burial benefits for the spouse of a veteran? Can he get any of that reimbursed?

• He needs a simple will drawn up. Fort Carson is the closest base to him, and he goes there for medication. Does it offer free legal services?

Your help and direction are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Respectfully,

Susan J

Dear Susan:

As to your specific questions:

Does the military provide any type of service that can check on your father periodically, clean or cook for him on occasion? My sources tell me that the military does not provide these types of services. These services normally can be contracted privately in the local community.

As for the second part of your question, concerning possible reimbursement for the $7,000 your father paid for the funeral: Unless his wife also was a military veteran, there are no burial benefits for a military member´s spouse except for burial/inurnment in a national cemetery. There also are state veteran cemeteries at which a veteran´s spouse may be interred and, depending on the state, some minimal expense may be incurred.

To answer the third question, your father will need a simple will drawn up. Fort Carson, where he currently goes for medication, is the closest base to him.

The staff judge advocate at Fort Carson will be pleased to assist your father in this matter.

You also may want to run an Internet search on the key words “Army officer retirement homes” to see the variety of communities that exclusively serve retired military officers. These settings provide an ever-evolving support structure that truly cares for the well-being of their residents.

Shaft Notes

Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Veterans´ Affairs, recently announced that the Purple Heart will be presented posthumously to all prisoners of war who die in captivity. The legislation that makes this possible is Mr. Filner´s Honor Our Fallen Prisoners of War Act, passed by Congress in 2006. The Department of Defense announced its complete implementation on Oct. 6.

“The law now presumes that the death of all service members who die in captivity was the result of enemy action or the result of wounds incurred in action with the enemy during capture and imprisonment,” Mr. Filner said. “Before passage of my bill, prisoners of war who died during imprisonment of wounds inflicted by an instrument of war were eligible for posthumous Purple Heart recognition, but those who died of starvation, disease, abuse, freezing or other causes during captivity were not. There should be no false distinction indicating more courage or more sacrifice by some prisoners of war over others,” Mr. Filner said.

The act had broad bipartisan support in Congress. “The inspiration for my bill came from Wilbert ‘Shorty’ Estabrook, who was imprisoned for more than three years during the Korean War, and Rick and Brenda Tavares. Brenda´s uncle, Cpl. Melvin Morgan, died in Korea of starvation and beatings in 1950 at the age of 20,” Mr. Filner said.

Each military department will publish application procedures and will ensure that the information is accessible to the general public. Family members with questions may contact the services: Army Military Awards Branch 703/325-8700, Navy Personnel Command Retired Records Section 314/592 -1150, Air Force Personnel Center 800/616-3775, and Marine Corps Military Awards Branch 730/784-9340.

• Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, DC 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail [email protected]

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